Wednesday, November 30, 2011

New Release! Vyper by Kiernan Kelly



My newest novel, Vyper, is now available, and you can find your copy here!

Blurb:

Vyper is a dashing pirate whose name strikes fear in the hearts of blackguards and civilians alike. A fortuitous message in a bottle leads Vyper to the island of Jamaica, but soon entangles him in a web of lies, deceit, and double-crosses, and introduces him to the man who may plunder Vyper's heart and destroy his world.

Byron Caldwell is a handsome, titled British landowner, whose holdings include a thriving plantation on the island of Jamaica. The only shadow on his otherwise brilliant future is his shrew of a sister, Elizabeth. It's his intention to marry her off as soon as possible, if only he can find someone willing to take her off his hands.

Elizabeth wants one thing and one thing only, the key to the Caldwell fortune, and she'll stop at nothing to get it, including arranging the kidnapping and eventual death of her brother by hiring the most ferocious pirate she can find.

The events spurred by a seemingly innocuous message found in a bottle washed ashore on a tiny island in the Caribbean soon set Vyper's life on its ear, and may ultimately bring about his demise.
***

Here's my book trailer created to promote Vyper!
video

Monday, November 28, 2011

Angels and Demons on the Wing!

I've been following the "Hot Angels and Cool Demons" blog tour, and I agree with everything my esteemed colleagues have said regarding the attraction of angels and demons in erotic romance. The struggles between Good and Evil, Innocent and Decadent, the whole polar-opposites-with-more-in common-than-they' d-like-to-admit thing angels and demons usually have going on, the overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles...all these themes resound with writers and readers alike, lure us in, keep us riveted to the page, and combine to make the angel/demon theme addictive and sizzling hot.

For me, there's one other thing about angels and demons that gets me every time – the wings.

There's just something about a man with wings I find incredibly sexy.

Maybe it's the notion that with them, he can up and fly away to escape danger, or swoop in from the sky to save the day. Or perhaps it's the the idea that they make the man more than merely human, something special, unique, that gets me. It might be the massive upper body strength (gotta love those shoulders and biceps!) that a humanoid would need to support a set of wings large enough to enable him to fly (physics and biology aside, of course). Or maybe it's the symbolism of wings, that with them we can overcome adversity, ascend to a higher level of being.

Or maybe I just have a feather fetish.

In any case, I find them sexy and have written several angel/demon pairings over the years, ranging in theme from apocalyptic-slightly-irreverent (Dancing on the Head of a Pin) to humorous (Demonology 101 in the Wicked Good anthology).

Dancing on the Head of a Pin tells the story of Malak, an innocent, slightly bewildered angel, and Cael, a selfish, narcissistic demon (actually, a fallen angel) with sex-on-the-brain. A rash decision on Cael's part leads to a contest imposed on them by the Powers That Be. If Cael can seduce Malak within a certain time frame, he'll be allowed to remain on Earth until the End of Days. If Malak remains pure, Cael goes back to Hell forever. When circumstances force them to cohabitate and cooperate to stave off the coming of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and their own destruction, it becomes a test of wills to see who'll break first.

Excerpt from Dancing on the Head of a Pin:

Barely kissing the horizon, the sun glowed a fiery crimson over the purpling waters of Islamorada, casting orange shadows over the storm-shuttered windows and whitewashed wraparound porch of their beachfront home.

Warm, salty breezes promised an evening thunderstorm and rippled the tall sea-oats that covered the dunes, surrounding the house with a green-and-gold carpet.

Standing barefoot on the second floor balcony, dressed in nothing but a loose-fitting pair of thin, white cotton pants, his tanned, flawless skin stretched over a chiseled body and his long dark hair blowing wild in the evening breeze, Malak was himself as much a work of art as anything his talented hands created.

With a flick of his wrist, Malak added a touch of vermillion to the wide swath of color that stretched across his canvas. When he stepped back and eyed his work, a small frown creased the skin between dark eyebrows.

To anyone else Malak would appear to be only slightly dissatisfied with what he saw, but Cael knew him better than that and ducked just as the canvas came whizzing through the air. It flipped end over end, sailing over the balcony railing, spiraling onto the dunes below.

"What was wrong with that one, Mal?" Cael asked, peering down at the wreckage of Malak's latest creation. Coarse sand clung to the wet paint, lending it the consistency of colored grits.

"It was shit."

Only Malak's voice, deep and smoky, could make defecation sound sexy. Cael smirked and swung himself up onto the balcony railing, straddling it. Leaning back against one of the posts supporting the overhang, he crossed his arms over his chest, watching Malak angrily swish brushes around in a mason jar half-filled with murky turpentine. "You say that about everything you paint these days, Mal."

Below Cael, half-buried in the sand, were the remnants of at least a couple of dozen of Malak's canvases, in various stages of completion. Pieces of the stretched canvas and broken frames stuck up through the sand like paint-splattered bones. Malak refused to allow any of them to be picked up and thrown away, inspiring Cael to nickname the area surrounding their porch St. Malak's Cemetery.

"Don't you have something else to do?" Malak grumbled, carefully cleaning his brushes and placing them bristles-up in another mason jar. He dried his hands on a paint-splattered rag, keeping his back to Cael. "Someone else to do?"

"Not at the moment," Cael answered, grinning. He could see the muscles tensing across Malak's shoulders. It was so easy to provoke him that it barely provided Cael with a challenge anymore. He flipped his mane of golden hair behind him and smiled impishly. "Why? Got someone in mind?"

"Go fuck yourself, Cael."

"A physical impossibility, Mal. Believe me, if I could I would -- constantly, and with great enthusiasm." Cael laughed, jumping down from the railing. He walked up and ran his hands over Malak's strongly muscled back, feeling the silken skin twitch under his palms. "You're tense, Malak. That's why you're having a hard time creating anything worthwhile. You've held out too long and it's affecting you physically."

"The only reason I'm tense is because you're still here," Malak growled, shrugging Cael's hands off his shoulders.

Undeterred, Cael returned to caress Malak's smooth skin. "I could relieve your tension in an instant, you know," he purred, sliding his hands around Malak's trim waist. He traced his fingers lightly over the ropy muscle of Malak's stomach, before slipping them under the drawstring waistband of Malak's pants, smiling at the sharp gasp when his fingers brushed against Malak's pubic hair. "I'd do whatever you wanted me to do. Touch you. Kiss you. Devour you. I'd even bend over the railing for you; let you take me hard and fast, or slow and sweet. Or would you rather bottom? You'd like to feel my cock push its way into your sweet, tight ass, wouldn't you? All you need to do is tell me what you want, Mal. That's all it would take."

"Knock it off, Cael! You already know what my answer to that is." Malak twisted away and opened the sliding glass door that led into the upstairs living area. He slipped inside, closing it behind him. Cael watched him round the corner into his bedroom, the resulting bang as Malak slammed the door shut echoing throughout the house.

Still smiling, Cael fingered his erection through his cargo shorts, adjusting himself. Damn if he hadn't given himself another boner. It was a wonder he never learned -- thinking about fucking Malak did that to him every time.

Touching any part of Malak's body had that same effect on Cael, the heat from Malak's skin going straight from Cael's fingertips to his groin. He sighed deeply as his erection grew painful. A body would think he'd have grown immune to Malak's charms by now, but no.

It had been that way for the past three thousand years -- why should today be different?

Flinging himself over the railing, Cael let his blood-red wings shimmer into view, membranous and leathery, flapping slowly to ease his fall. He landed lightly on the sand below, his feet barely indenting the grainy surface.

Bending, he plucked Malak's latest creation from the ground. A slow grin creased his cheek as he contemplated the sand-splattered painting. The canvas showed two figures entwined, one light and one dark. Although their faces were indistinct, no more than smudges of color, it was clear to Cael who the subjects were.

Malak's subconscious was trying to break through the wall he'd erected between them. His desire was manifesting itself in his paintings, had been for centuries now, which was why Malak was unhappy with everything he painted. He didn't want to admit that he wanted Cael as badly as Cael wanted him. But Malak's wild, bold brushstrokes and his sensual use of color, in addition to his subject matter, told a different story.

He was losing control.

And none too soon, as far as Cael was concerned. Time was swiftly running out for him. If Cael didn't get Malak between the sheets soon, Cael was going to find himself right back where he'd started, with a pitchfork stuck in ass and a permanent case of the hornies.

That was a totally unacceptable outcome. Cael would not go back, refused to even consider the possibility. Three millennia had done nothing to dim the memories of his life before he'd met Malak. He remembered all too clearly what it had been like, how much he had suffered.

Humiliation. Degradation. Subjugation. Deprivation. All tempered with a healthy dose of pain, they'd filled his every waking moment. And since Cael never slept, that translated to being miserable every moment of every fucking day.

No way.

He was not going back.

His hands clenched involuntarily, crushing the canvas with a splintering sound as the wooden frame cracked in his fingers. Letting it drop back onto the sand, he struggled to regain his composure.

Calm yourself, he thought. You have everything under control. He's going to snap any moment now, like a twig in a tornado. Cael took a deep breath, filling his lungs with clean, fresh air, willing his muscles to relax.

A few more days and Malak's resolve would crumple like tissue paper. That's all it would take, Cael told himself. A handful of hours and he'd have Malak naked, writhing underneath him. And once he'd had his fill of Malak's delectable flesh; once he'd spilled his seed deeply inside Malak's perfect body, or had Malak's semen fill his -- it didn't matter to Cael in the slightest which way it went down -- Cael would be safe until the end of time. A few more days and it would all be over.

It had better be.

A few more days were all Cael had left.

***

In Demonology 101, opposites rule because the demon is the hero of the story. It's a humorous erotic romance, but also a somewhat cautionary tale about the dangers of having blind faith.

Xyle is a demon with a penchant for good barbeque. Xyle works as a professor of demonology at a university, where he seeks to enlighten the minds of the rather thick-headed human students and do his part to education a new generation.

Roger is a human whose family are Hunters. They believe all demons are evil, animalistic, dangerous creatures that should be destroyed, despite all evidence to the contrary.

When Xyle discovers Roger and realizes who Roger is and what he has planned, Xyle decides to teach Roger a lesson. What follows is a crash course in Demonology 101 that proves opposites really do attract.

Excerpt from Demonology 101 (in the Wicked Good anthology):

Xyle tossed the brown paper sack containing two full orders of baby back ribs with extra sauce on the side to the passenger seat as he slid his long frame into the car, and ignored the familiar discomfort when he settled back. Bucket seats were not built for demon physiognomy, and although he kept his wings folded and tucked up tightly against his back, the leather seats squished them flat, making them cramp. The pain was a small enough price to pay for the pleasure of driving the Mustang, though.

He paused with his hand on the gearshift, the small hairs at the back of his neck standing up. Something was wrong, out of place. He sniffed the air and immediately recognized the scent of human. Partially obscured by the smell of pine-scented air freshener, leather, and barbeque sauce, it was there nonetheless. He analyzed the information his sensitive nose gathered. He detected a metallic odor underlying the others, and realized whoever it was, he was hiding in the back seat and was armed to the teeth.

Goddamn fucking Hunters, he thought, baring his fangs to the rear view mirror in a silent hiss. He had a good mind to incinerate the man concealed under the blanket on the floor behind his seat. One thought was all it would take him, and poof! Instant human charcoal. The gods knew the Hunters deserved to be put down. They'd persecuted demons for centuries now, hounding them, making their lives a living hell. Hunters were the chief reason Xyle had taken the teaching job in the first place—he hoped to enlighten young minds and rid the world of prejudice against demons and misinformation, ending the violence against his people once and for all.

The Mustang was truly cherry, though, and no matter how much he wanted to fry the Hunter, he couldn't bring himself to scorch the luxurious, gray leather upholstery. He could control the flames, but once the stink of burned human flesh got into leather, you could never really get it out again. There had to be another way.

An idea occurred to him, and his grimace turned into a smile. Of course! Although technically, humans weren't permitted in Hades—at least, not while their souls were still wearing their fleshy remains—he would bring the man, Mustang and all, to his home in the Underworld. Surely, the Demon Alliance would understand the necessity of his actions, once they understood his plan—particularly if it worked.

The Hunter didn't know it yet, but he was about to get a crash course in Demonology 101, and if he didn't ace the class, well…Xyle did have a barbeque pit in his backyard.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Where M/M Writers Find Inspiration...

I recently posted a series of images on Facebook regarding "Where M/M Writers Find Inspiration," and thought I'd share them here since my blog has been seriously and sadly ignored for quite a while. Here, baby. Have a post. Good boy.

Where M/M Writers Find Inspiration #1: Fantasy Football



Where M/M Writers Find Inspiration #2: I think that's called "getting to third base," gentlemen.



Where M/M Writers Find Inspiration #3: You know what they say about the size of a man's feet? Three words: Floppy Clown Feet. Just sayin'.




Where M/M Writers Find Inspiration #4: Cowboys, because those are TEN GALLON hats, folks.




Where M/M Writers Find Inspiration #5: Probably not from this guy.




Where M/M Writers Find Inspiration #6: Just wait until you see their hat trick.



Where M/M Writers Find Inspiration #7: I'm not sure that's what the coach meant by a "rim shot," but it works for me.


Monday, May 9, 2011


Gather closer children, and I'll tell you a story.

Once upon a time there was a kingdom called Publishing which was ruled by Giants. These Giants were cruel, hard, and greedy, and wielded enormous power, dictating every facet of the lives of those who lived in or visited their kingdoms. The subjects had no choice but to live under the thumb of the Giants, eating and drinking only what the Giants deemed appropriate for the masses.

One day, in an obscure little hamlet called Internet, far from the kingdom of Publishing, a baby was born. Its parents named him "E-publishing," or "E-pub" for short. The Giants hardly deigned to notice Epub, dismissing the child as inconsequential and weak, and of no threat to them. They went about their Giant-business as they had every day for time out of mind, ruthlessly dictating the lives of their subjects without qualm.

Nestled, protected, and nurtured in his little hamlet of Internet, E-pub grew quickly. He began to make his presence known outside the boundaries of Internet, reaching out to those who lived under the Giants' rule. People were drawn to E-pub because of his open-mindedness and approachability, and were not intimidated by E-pub. He didn't seek to limit the people's choices, but rather offered an endless variety of material for them to choose from, day or night, and for far less than the Giants charged for their services.

The Giants laughed at E-pub, and occasionally threw a caustic barb in his direction, but generally ignored him, seeing him as no threat to their power.

But one day a curious thing happened. The Giants were in their treasure room counting their coin when they realized the tithing of their subjects had dwindled. While they had been busy ignoring E-pub and denouncing him as an insignificant peon who would quickly fade away, E-pub had built a kingdom for himself right under their Giant noses that included many of the Giants' subjects. Some of the Giants' tax collectors even claimed that E-pub had collected more from the subjects than the Giants had! Suddenly, some of the Giants' largest supporters, huge marketplaces that had supplied the masses with the Giants' goods for so long, were disappearing.

The Giants were outraged and secluded themselves inside their war rooms to plot a new strategy. As incredible as it sounded, this wretched little upstart, E-pub, was threatening their rule! They could not allow this to continue. They formulated a plan, a wicked one that they believed would ultimately allow them to consume E-pub completely and return the world to the way things were before.

On tiptoes, the Giants crept into Internet, the birthplace of E-pub, and began breeding their own lineage of electronic children. They hoped their fame and familiarity would bring the people of the kingdom back under their rule. They began to quietly infiltrate some of E-pub's largest supporters, sometimes consuming them whole.

Sure enough, the people of the kingdom happily bought the Giants' wares alongside those of E-pub. For a while, everyone seemed happy and looked forward to a New Age.

But the Giants weren't happy. They didn't want to share their kingdom. They wanted things to go back to the way they were before E-pub's birth when they ruled the world.

They realized the only way to do this was the old-fashioned way - by stringing up a noose and sticking the heads of the subjects firmly inside it. So, they took their electronic children and began taxing the most popular of them at a higher rate than their children of old. No longer was it less expensive to take in one of the Giants' electronic children. Instead, it cost more.

They tightened the noose.

We've reached the end of this tale, although not the end of the story. The Giants of Publishing are seeking a strangle hold on us, their subjects. Will we allow them to destroy all that E-pub has created, or worse, consume E-pub entirely? Will we allow the Giants to stomp every iota of freedom and choice in Internet out, transforming it into a copy of their old kingdom?

***

I wrote this little fairy tale because of an experience I had today that outraged me.

Besides being an author, I'm also an avaricious reader. Having a road trip coming up in the next couple of days (I'm driving to Atlanta to participate in OutlantaCon/Gaylaxicon), I thought it would be nice to have some new reading material on hand.

I went to Barnes and Noble.com to score a few books by my favorite authors for my Nook. Need I say how shocked and disgusted I was to find that the price for the Nookbooks (Ebooks) were the same as, or HIGHER than the cost of the print books?

I don't understand it. E-books cost FAR less than print books to publish. There's no paper, for one, no printing or shipping costs. Make one copy, and with the press of a few buttons, an infinite number of copies are made.

There's only one reason for it. GREED. Brick and mortar publishers seem to think that by charging more or the same for Ebooks, people will opt to go back to buying print books. And for those Ebooks they sell, well...they've just made a fortune on a product that costs nearly nothing to produce.

The noose is tightening, folks, but I refuse to stick my head in it. As much as I, as an author, support my literary brethren, I will NOT buy an ebook that costs more than a print book, nor will I be forced to fork over my hard-earned cash for a print copy if I don't want one. I'd rather wait to buy a used copy, or get it from my local library.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Book Covers Facebook Would've Deleted,..50 Years Ago

With all the kerfluffle over book covers being deleted over at Facebook, I decided to take a peek at paperback cover art from years ago. After all, these so-called "offensive" covers that are being deleted are something new, right? Our parents would NEVER have allowed risque covers to be seen by the public at large, right? I mean, they would've been offended, and forced publishers to remove them from the drugstore book racks, right?

Yeah, not so much. In fact, it seems like the rule of thumb was the sleazier the better. The one common denominator among these covers seems to be half-naked people. I had so much fun digging up these old covers, I think I may make this a weekly theme. Btw, the publishers of some of these covers are still around today, including Bantam.








I want to know what these guys were doing before they started fighting, especially since the man with the chain has his pants unzipped. And I don't even want to know why the guy in the red shirt is holding a Barbie doll.


















Evidently, the early concepts of spacesuits involved underwear and gladiator boots.

















So..., is he going to sacrifice the baby to the mantis-people, or is this the earliest known fictionalized account of male pregnancy?





















I believe the artist time-traveled and watched Pirates of the Caribbean, because if that pirate isn't Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, I'll eat my keyboard.








Is that a naked man she's pulling up out of the water? Why, yes. Yes it is.

Mommy, why are they giving Tarzan electroshock?








There's nothing that sells books faster than a maniacal grin plastered on the face of a half-naked man slaughtering Native Americans.

Because everyone knows the Eerie Canal was built during a frat kegger.

It's a PUZZLE book! 'Nuff said.







Friday, April 15, 2011

Going Home Again

There's an old saying that goes, "you can't go home again." Not true. Well, not exactly. Of course, you can go home - to the place you grew up, to see the people who populated your world. I mean, unless your face is on a wanted poster on the wall at the post office, or the city of your birth met with some catastrophic event that wiped it from the map, chances are good that you can return to the physical place where you were born and raised.

The problem is that nothing and no one will be as you remember them. They've changed.

And so have you.

I've just returned from such a trip. My family and I left the warm sunshine of Florida and made the trek into the blustery northeast to see relatives in New Jersey. I needed to go - I hadn't seen my three elderly aunts in years. Two are in their mid-to-upper eighties, the third is ninety-one. My mother's sisters, they still live together in the house in which they were born and lived all their lives.

They are the single exception to the rule and have not changed an iota in the intervening years. Not a wrinkle among them (somehow, I was sadly shorted that familial gene). Their smiles made the trip worthwhile.

I cannot say the same about the area in which I grew up. It was an odd feeling, going home again. Have you ever seen the episode of The Twilight Zone where the scientist goes back into the past and changes the future? He didn't change it completely, but just enough to make things...not right. That's what it seemed like to me.

Many things looked the way I remembered them, but strangely different at the same time. In the old neighborhood, many of the homes I remembered were torn down to make way for monstrous Mc-houses. These cookie-cutter mansions were strewn side-by-side among much more venerable, humble homes like gaudy, paste rhinestones set alongside tiny, precious gems. They seemed cold and out-of-place.

Most of the smaller stores and boutiques I remembered, the family-run businesses, were gone, replaced by Walmarts and convenience stores. Oh, there were landmarks aplenty that I remembered, for instance, the three Catholic churches that were the cornerstones of the community in this deeply religious, Old-World Italian neighborhood, but two of the schools were closed, the buildings rented out.

The faces on the street were different, too. Strangers now lived in homes that belonged to people my family knew for generations.

Many of the neighborhood traditions are gone now. I remember that every year on the Feast of St. Ciro, parishioners (most of whom spoke Italian and little English) from our church would march in a mile-long procession that led from the church, through the streets, and back again - many of them walking in their bare feet as a sign of devotion. They carried banners with images of the saint on them, to which people would pin dollar bills. They also carried a litter bearing a statue of the saint through the streets, and a three-piece band would play unrecognizable hymns.

I find it sad to think traditions like this one have disappeared. They were part (along with the people) of what made my hometown what it was - a unique and charming place.

You can go home again, but chances are you'll return just a little sadder.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

When Did I Get So Freaking Old?

I knew it was coming. I was warned repeatedly (usually by people older than me) that it was inevitable. Someday, somehow, I was going to get...old.

Surely, this wouldn't happen to me. I might be wrinkling up enough to qualify as a spokesmodel for the raisin industry, but inside I was still juicy.

Until today, that is. Today, I feel like the turkey in the movie Christmas Vacation. You know...the one that exploded into a dust storm of dried turkey bits when they cut into it. Seriously, I may henceforth be required by law to have the words, "Caution: Extremely Flammable. Do not allow near open flame" tattooed on my forehead.

What happened, you ask? I went and got my hair cut, that's what happened.

Now, I've had my hair cut many times. Every four or five weeks in fact. But today for some reason, it just dawned on me how much the experience has changed in the past, oh, thirty years or so.

Used to be, there was a local beauty parlor in the neighborhood (yes, that's what they were called, beauty parlors, not salons, or hair-atoriums, or whatever the hell else they call them these days. Oh, and a man wouldn't be caught dead in a beauty parlor - unless he was gay and doing the cutting - they went to the barbershop). This beauty parlor had been in existence at that same location for as long as you could remember, probably since the invention of the scissors. Not only did you go there, but your grandmother, aunts, mother, sisters, cousins, and everyone girl you ever knew since grammar school went there as well.

Everyone knew everyone else. The beauty parlor held the distinction of not only being the only place in town to get your 'do done, but the best place to get your gossip fix as well. You had a standing appointment, and woe to the woman who missed it. Squeezing you in required you be read the riot act in full hearing of whoever was in the parlor that day, but it would get done, even if the beautician (not stylist, mind you) had to stay late. Late...as in after hours. Nowadays, you'd have a better chance of winning the lottery than to get an after-hours appointment. In fact, back then, if you were sick, the beautician might just make a house call.

I remember the parlor in my neighborhood. It was on the corner, right next to the funeral home (and yes, I think some of the beauticians earned a little extra money doing color and sets for the recently departed).

There were three chairs in the parlor and only one wash station. There was also a sink in the back of the parlor behind a curtain that I think may have been a converted bed sheet, where perms were applied to lessen the stench in the parlor. Also in the back were two dryers which looked - and sounded - like jet engines. Good luck trying to hear anything short of a nuclear explosion while under those babies. There were always two elderly women parked under them, their hair pulled up into giant rollers the size of toilet paper rolls.

The thing is, getting your hair done back then wasn't a chore. It wasn't something you fit into your schedule - your schedule was built around your hair appointment. It was an afternoon out with the ladies, gossiping and trading photos of your kids and recipes. In other words, it was a social event.

Nowadays, with all the chain hair salons around, it's no different from coasting through the drive thru at Mickey D's. Ten minutes tops, from wash to blow dry, assembly-line format. Chances are good that the person who cuts your hair this month will not be at the same location next month. Every time you walk in, you take a chance that you'll walk out looking like Don King on a bad hair day.

Back then, you went in and got a hair cut. That included the wash, product (which amounted to hair spray, or if you were lucky, a little mousse), style and blowdry.

Today, everything is separate, like an ala carte menu. Oh, you wanted conditioner? Tack on another three bucks. Blow dry? Another five. I keep waiting for the day they start charging you by the snip.

Thinking about all this was what forced the astonishing revelation on me. I'm old. I realized I remember the "good old days." You may as well set me down on the front porch with fifty cats and a basin of snap peas on my lap.

Sigh.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Some Writers Need a Time Out

Recently, the blogosphere has been abuzz with the antics of a self-published writer who had a very public, very vicious meltdown on a reviewer's site over what she deemed to be a less-than-satisfactory review.

The crazy thing is that the review wasn't really bad! Yes, the reviewer pointed out her grammatical and spelling errors, but he said he liked her story, which to me is the most important thing.

I'm the first to admit to losing my temper from time to time. It happens to all of us. We're all human, we all have responsibilities that weigh on our shoulders, and periodically something happens that causes a meltdown. Maybe it was the guy who cut you off on the freeway. Maybe it was rude check-out clerk who slammed your eggs into the bag and broke half-a-dozen. Maybe it was a relative who changed his address to your living room sofa. Or maybe it was someone who wrote a less-than-stellar review of your book. Sometimes shit happens, and when it happens on our last nerve, we break down.

The thing is, when I reach this point I make sure I'm behind closed doors before I give vent to my anger. I scream at the laptop (please, tell me there isn't a Laptop Humane Society out there somewhere taking notes), and mumble strings of curses that could wilt steel, and afterward settle into a nice, comfy blue funk. That's when I initiate my support system, namely the hubs, who stoically lets me dump my writer-crap all over him, then calmly tells me why I shouldn't let things like this get to me.

Maybe this writer doesn't have a support system. Maybe she was never taught how to remain gracious in the face of adversity. Maybe she never learned how to behave like a professional.

Maybe she just needs better meds.

In any case, publicly vilifying a reviewer because they didn't fawn over your book is no excuse to go weapons hot on the reviewer's site. Reading what she wrote, I could practically hear her teeth gnashing. Her reaction was so middle-school, I wanted to send her a report card. Oh yeah, by the way...you failed. Summer school for you, hon.

Some folks say - me, included - that the entire thing was too over-the-top to be real, that it had to be calculated, staged by the author to achieve exactly what she wanted. Publicity. Well, she succeeded there - the whole mess went viral. I still don't believe she accomplished anything except to put the kibosh on any career under her current pen name.

What the writer did accomplish was to focus everyone's attention on just how horrible her writing skills are (her responses were littered with errors and terrible grammar, much as her book was reported to be), and blemish the entire self-publishing world in one fell stroke. Do you think anyone's going to remember her name six months from now? Hell, no. What they will remember was that she was self-published.

Even if a New York publisher were to put her under contract (which I highly doubt), it would be a one-book-wonder. People might buy it just to see if it's as bad as everyone said, but no one would spend their hard earned money on a second book.

There's a lesson to be learned here, folks. What Mama used to say is true - if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

Scream at the laptop. It's strong. It can take it.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Cruise aboard Disney's "Dream" Turns Out To Be A Nightmare!

On Thursday, February 24, my family and I set sail aboard the Disney "Dream" for a cruise to Nassau and Castaway Cay for my oldest son's wedding. He and his bride were to be married on Disney's private island, Castaway Cay on Saturday, February 26th.

I really don't even know where to begin. I suppose I'll start with the good things first, although it's going to be a sadly short list.

My son and new daughter-in-law were married. She looked gorgeous in a breathtaking gown, and he looked so handsome I had trouble believing he sprang from my loins. I cried until I was soggy, happy tears for the both of them.

The best time I had on the cruise was sitting with my family for a few minutes here and there, enjoying the sea air.

That's it. That's all the good news I have.

From here, it only goes down hill.

Seriously, so many things went wrong on this cruise that I can barely remember all of them, so I'll stick to the highlights.

They are, in no particular order:

On Thursday night, my youngest son, a groomsman in the wedding, got a stomachache. Being a responsible person, he went to the ship's infirmary to see if he could get some medication so that he wouldn't be sick during the wedding, which was to take place on Saturday.

They quarantined him. Evidently, there was some sort of parasitic virus onboard, and even though the doctor concluded my son didn't have it, they quarantined him anyway, the equivalent of house arrest. He couldn't leave his cabin for twenty-four hours, missing meals and the entire day at Nassau. His roommate, however, was not moved to another cabin (although the ship had vacancies)and was free to come and go as he pleased, spreading whatever germs my son had around the ship. What sort of quarantine is that?

We saw a crew member (in the food court area, no less!) sit at a table in the guest area, sweating profusely and coughing. He laid his head down on the table, and didn't wipe or disinfect it when he left.

I guess only the guests are contagious. Not the crew.

My stepdaughter ordered a croissant at breakfast the last day. She was the last to be served, and her croissant never arrived. When she inquired after it, she was told by her waiter that the Board of Health had boarded the ship and they'd had to throw out all their breads. Really? Now you tell us, after the rest of the party had eaten your croissants?

Crew members fought with each other in the middle of the dining area, yelling back and forth.

There was no food presentation at all, and only two places to get food if you weren't going to the formal dinners. Both closed up shop early, leaving hungry passengers with no alternative but to order the awful -- and severely limited -- food from room service.

Most of the food on ship was atrocious. I couldn't eat any of my meal on Friday night because if was so awful, and I was never asked if I wanted something else, even though my plates went back to the kitchen in almost the same condition in which they were served.

There was only one smoking area on board the ship. It was tiny, inconvenient to reach, and without any cover at all, so those in the party who smoked had to do so under the hot sun.

Disney advertises fireworks every night, but only set them off once.

Time docked at ports of call were so short, you barely had any time to do anything.The ship left Nassau at 7pm and Castaway Cay at 5!

Crew members (with the exception of our server, Katrin, and head server, Kurt) were consistently rude and unhelpful. We met one woman who was nearly in tears because she was lost and couldn't find her cabin. She'd been searching for it for a half an hour, and no crew member she encountered would take her to it.

Now for some of the wedding horrors:

The Disney wedding planner my daughter-in-law originally had when she booked the wedding left midstream, and the replacement planner was so uninformed and useless that, no matter how many times my daughter-in-law tried to get information, she was given no specifics about the wedding ceremony until two weeks before we sailed!

The bride ordered breakfast for the groom and groomsmen to be delivered to the best man's cabin. She called the order in from her suite, but was very clear where the order was to be delivered. The order never arrived, because room service decided it was a prank. When the maid of honor called to find out what happened, the room service crew member yelled at her and told her it was her fault.

During the wedding ceremony, there was no runner for the bride to walk down. There was no cover for any of the guests (we had to sit under the broiling sun).

There was no one to direct the bridal party down the aisle.

The minister's mike didn't work for part of the ceremony.

The bride and groom made CDs of music they specifically wanted the DJ to play during the ceremony, but he didn't play a single song from either of them. This was especially hurtful, since the songs had deep meaning for both the bride and groom.

The bride and groom requested that the entire wedding party (there were 42 of us) be seated together during the formal dinners. This never happened the first or second night. On the night before the wedding, she made a point of seeking out the maitre 'd, and asking again that we be seated together, especially on Saturday since it was her wedding night. Despite assurances that this would happen, Disney again screwed up. the entire wedding party was seated together...except for the bride, groom, and attendants. They were seated four tables away from everyone else. The maitre 'd not only refused to help the bride and groom, he responded that it was "his dining room," meaning he could do anything he damn well pleased. This stiff-neck SOB then proceeded to shun the entire wedding party, never stopping at any of our tables to see if all was well with our meals.

Like I said, these are only the things I can remember off the top of my head.

I am most upset about how many times Disney dropped the ball on the wedding. This was a once in a lifetime thing for my son and daughter-in-law, and even though they are deliriously happy together, I know they were disappointed and frustrated on what should have been the happiest day of their lives.

Shame on you, Disney. You're all hype, and deliver nothing. Zilch. Nada.

My advice? Do NOT sail with Disney. I've cruised many times before, and this was by far the worst cruise I've ever set sail on.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thoughts on piracy


I'm really getting annoyed at certain people's contentions that piracy (the uploading of copyrighted material for free, unauthorized distribution) is a fundamental right intrinsic with a free internet.

Nope. Sorry. It's not. Piracy of copyrighted material has nothing to do with information freely posted on the web. If I posted my book on my website for free, then yes, by all means, take it, download it, upload it all over the place. If I post a buy link on my website, then if you want to read it, you are expected to pay for a copy of the book, and have access to only that single copy. Sure, you can share it with a few of your close friends (who hasn't passed a book along to a friend who might enjoy it?), but not to thousands, perhaps millions, of people across the globe.

The problem is that for the first time in our history, goods are purely intangible, and it's that very intangibility that gives people the idea it's up for grabs. Ebooks (along with digital movies and music) have no physical substance. You can't smell them, taste them, or touch them. For all intents and purposes, they don't exist in the real world. They're simply digital files.

Does that mean they should be free to whoever wants to take them or distribute them?

Again, no. Sorry.

Digital or not, they are the property of someone else, and that person isn't likely you. Again, if you bought a copy, you own only that single copy. If you upload them to pirate sites without permission of the copyright owner, you're essentially creating multiple copies of the book, and that's theft. If you download them without paying the copyright owner for them, it's still theft.

Pirates love to argue that most people who download books and other copy-written material for free wouldn't have bought the product to begin with, or might buy it if they read (or listen or watch) it for free first.

Well, maybe they wouldn't, or maybe they would. There are no numbers to support the argument either way.

That's also not the point.

The point is that the product does not belong to you. It is not yours to take and decide later if you want to buy it. If you do not wish to spend your hard-earned money on it, that's totally understandable, but this does not give you the right to read it anyway for free. Whether or not piracy affects my sales is also not the point. The product does not belong to you. Period. Would you stand by idly if I snatched a TV set or Ipod from your home and told you "I wasn't going to buy this, but I want to use it anyway?" Of course not. You paid for those items. They belong to you and no one else. I would have been committing theft.

The argument that someone would never buy the book, or might buy the book after reading it is ONLY used when the subject is intangible goods. No one could walk into Barnes and Noble, pick a book off the shelf, walk out without paying for it, then tell the police "I might buy it after I read it," or "I wasn't going to read it at all if I couldn't take it for free,"and expect to be let go.

Pirates claim that writers, musicians and the rest are greedy, concerned with losing even a penny on their royalties.

Damn straight. When your living is dependent on royalties, you want every penny accounted for. No one else would expect to work at their job without being paid for it.

Pirates claim that people who can't afford to buy books should still be able to read them.

Absolutely! That's what libraries are for. Most libraries in the U.S. will even mail the book to your home now, so the argument about distance to a library or rising gas prices keeping people from lending institutions no longer holds water, at least not in the U.S. I feel badly for folks in countries where the library system doesn't work for them, or in countries where books such as mine are banned, but that's still no excuse for theft. We need to work on establishing individual freedoms in those places, but condoning theft of intellectual properties is not going to fix things.

Many companies give away samples for free to entice consumers into buying their product. How many times have you walked through a food court in the mall, and had workers offer you a sample of food or baked goods? Sometimes people buy, sometimes they don't.

We do the same thing. Many authors post free reads on their websites, in forums, etc. We do this for the express purpose of giving people something for nothing, a taste of our writing style, so readers can decide whether or not to invest in one of our books.

Those stories are expected to be taken, to be read for free. Our products, our books, music, and movies, are not.

Pirates claim that art should be free.

Um, no.

Art is free to create. Not to steal.

Look at the old masters of art. Their work is free now because there is no copyright on it. Rest assured, they were usually commissioned when they first created the pieces. Michelangelo was commissioned to paint the Sistine Chapel, Da Vinci received compensation to paint the Mona Lisa, and so forth, and so on. I'm sure if they were alive and working in the world today, their work would be copyrighted, and they'd be as upset over people pirating their work as we are.

In short, if it doesn't belong to you, don't take it.

On the other hand, I'm profoundly grateful to my readers (some of whom are on limited budgets) who choose to spend their money to read my work. To those readers, and those who get their copies from libraries, I am deeply indebted.

Yes, we could write or compose for the sheer enjoyment of doing so, or because something in our makeup insists that we do so, but why bother publishing? For me, it is essential to be able to say my work has worth, that I'm not just writing stories for the hell of it. Like every one else who works for a living, a paycheck shows your efforts are appreciated.

Perhaps we, as artists, don't acknowledge these faithful consumers enough. They are the backbone of our industries, the glue that binds the whole thing together. Without them, we would not succeed. Without readers, our words are just marks on a page, wasted efforts.

To you, Faithful Reader, my thanks.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

It Never Ends

You finally did it.


When you first made the decision to write a book, you willingly gave up any semblance of a social life, and spent incalculable hours crouched over your keyboard, writing. You agonized over every word written, every descriptive paragraph, every bit of dialogue. You cleverly incorporated every scrap of your well-documented research, careful to keep the story informative without being preachy. By the time you finished your first draft, your characters were nicely rounded and fleshed out; your heroes were loveable, your villains were horrible, and all the plot holes stitched up tighter than Aunt Bertha's girdle.


Then you diligently, painfully edited your work, carving out chunks that left your soul bleeding because you really, really loved the scene where your hero went shoe shopping, but realized it added virtually nothing to the plot or character development except for feeding your own secret fantasy to throw away fifteen hundred bucks on a pair of Prada heels. You revised and revised and revised, whittling and tweaking until your manuscript practically screamed "bestseller."


After a period of extensive research during which you picked the brain of every writer of your genre you could corner, you pinpointed your market, chose a publisher, and finally sent your baby on its merry way with a wish and a prayer and a query letter that was nearly literary gold in and of itself.


Weeks passed, perhaps months, and although you went about your business of day-to-day living, your book was never far from your mind. Where was it now? Was it on someone's desk, or moldering in some godforsaken slush pile? Who was reading it? Did they like it, or were they passing it around the office, all getting a good chuckle from what they collectively thought might arguably be the worst book ever written? Did someone use it to paper a bird's cage?


You lost sleep. You didn't eat. You got cranky with the cat.


Then one morning, just as you've convinced yourself you must have been out of your mind to consider writing the book in the first place let alone sending it out for strangers to read, an email from the publisher appeared in your inbox. You began to sweat blood. Was it good news, or bad? You stared at the unopened email, trying to discern from the vague subject line (deviously worded, "your submission") whether there's an offer of a contract within or a rejection. It's only after several shots of liquid courage and much pacing and wringing of hands that you found the wherewithal to open the email and read the contents.


Hallelujah! It was an offer to publish. You did it!


Cue the fireworks and tickertape parade.


Unfortunately, your work had just begun. Over the next few months, you were assigned an editor, and repeatedly hit upside the head with the edit mallet. Someone you never met before, who was not there to see blood seep from your pores as you agonized over the original manuscript, or the hives spotting your skin while you waited for the acceptance letter, who had no idea of what your crankiness did to the cat, has red-lined the pages of your manuscript like an English teacher on steroids. They lectured you on comma use, dialogue tags, dashes, ellipses, parentheses, POV, and exposition, and demanded a new scene written in which your hero goes shoe shopping.


You did everything asked of you. You grumbled, perhaps, but spent as many additional hours as necessary meticulously making changes to what, until twenty-four hours ago, you were confident was already a Pulitzer-worthy manuscript.


After this gut-wrenching process, you went through yet another round of soul-searing edits, then line edits, and finally, a couple of rounds of proofing. By this time, you'd developed a nervous tic, and the cat had bald patches and refused to come out from under the sofa.


Your hard work, diligence, self-flagellation, and occasional use of voodoo dolls and pins paid off. Finally, finally, your book released. It had cover art! It had a dedication! It had an ISBN number! It was all shiny and pretty and sitting on the front page of the publisher's website!


Think you're finished with it?


Oh hell no.


You now must begin the arduous task of promoting your book, because if you don't initiate a marketing and promotion plan that is the literary equivalent of guerilla warfare, no one will know about the damn thing or buy it.


In a blizzard of activity, you send out mass release notifications to every email address on the planet, clog Yahoo group inboxes with excerpts, update your website with life-size graphics of your book cover, and hold contests for readers to win fabulous prizes like a chapstick with your name on it, or -- drum roll please -- a copy of your book. You do interviews until the entire world knows you've written a book, the name of your favorite television show, and the color of your underwear. You create book trailers that are worthy of Oscar acclaim. You plaster review sites with book cover and banner ads. You Facebook, blog, and Tweet until your Twitter is sore. You do book signings and make appearances at conventions. In short, you do everything except skywrite your book's buy-link over large metropolitan areas.


Miraculously during all of this, you've managed to write your second book. It was accepted for publication and the entire process began to repeat itself.


So, now you're finally done with the first book, right? I mean, you're a busy author. Prolific, even. You're multi-published, for Heaven's sake. You have a second book to worry about now and a third in the works, not to mention needing to decide if you should dip the cat in a vat of medicated lotion to encourage hair growth, or if it would easier to just tell everyone it's the Sphinx breed. The first book is over and done with, never to darken your computer screen again.


Oh hell no.


As a writer, you must come to terms with one undeniable truth -- you are never done with a book.


The first book simply switches from its much-touted "new release" label to a different, if no less important, one. It becomes your backlist.


Your first book may no longer be the engine driving your career train, but no matter how many freight cars you stick between it and your latest new release, it never really goes away. It will always be the caboose, chugging along at the rear.


Your backlist is important because those earlier books, while perhaps overshadowed by your sparkling, shiny new releases, are what help pad your royalties and keep the cat in hair tonic. As a writer, you can't afford to forget about them.


You'll become quite devious in your methods when it comes to keeping your backlist titles in front of readers. You'll sneak in references to books on your backlist when doing interviews, Facebook posts, and blogs. You'll find ways to work them into Yahoo posts, even when they're sometimes far removed from the topic - after all, you're a writer, and words are your forte. You may write sequels, even if you did not intend to do so when you wrote the first book.


When the dreaded day finally comes, the one in which your first book goes out of contract, it will still refuse to die. After all, a book sitting on your desktop collecting dust will not make you one thin dime. It isn't like an NFL jersey number. You don't need to retire it. At this point, you'll either tear it apart, rewrite and expand it in hopes of reselling it to another publisher, self-publish it, or offer it up as a free read to boost sales of your current titles.


Eventually, given enough time, the cat's hair will grow back, but you'll still be promoting that first book in one form or another. It just never ends.


But you know what? It's totally worth it.